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Yakety Yak

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"Yakety Yak" is a song written, produced, and arranged by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for The Coasters and released on Atlantic Records in 1958, spending seven weeks as #1 on the R&B charts and a week as number one on the Hot 100 pop list.[1] This song was one of a string of singles released by The Coasters between 1957 and 1959 that dominated the charts, one of the biggest performing acts of the rock and roll era.


Song[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song is a "playlet," a word Stoller used for the glimpses into teenage life that characterized the songs Leiber and Stoller wrote and produced.[3] The lyrics describe the listing of household chores to a kid, presumably a teenager, the teenager's response ("yakety yak") and the parents' retort ("don't talk back") — an experience very familiar to a middle-class teenager of the day. Leiber has said the Coasters portrayed "a white kid’s view of a black person’s conception of white society."[2] The serio-comic street-smart “playlets” etched out by the songwriters were sung by the Coasters with a sly clowning humor, while the screaming saxophone of King Curtis filled in hot, honking bursts in the up-tempo doo-wop style. The group was openly theatrical in style—they were not pretending to be expressing their own experience.[4]

The threatened punishment for not taking out the garbage and sweeping the floor is, in the song's humorous lyrics:[5]

"You ain't gonna rock and roll no more,"

And the refrain is:

"Yakety yak; don't talk back."

Popular culture[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • Sha Na Na performed this as part of their set at the original Woodstock Festival and recorded 2 live covers of the song in 1971 and 1972
  • Lee Perry released a cover version in 1969 (as Lee Perry and the Upsetters), altering the lyric "You ain't gonna rock and roll no more" to "You ain't gonna reggae reggae reggae no more"
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks recorded a version for the 1987 Alvin and the Chipmunks episode "Dave's Dream Cabin."
  • The song has also been mixed & recorded by 2 Live Crew for the movie Twins. In the same film, Julius (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sings along, with hilarious results, as the song plays in his earphones while flying to the United States.
  • It has also served as the theme to Clive Anderson's chat-show Clive Anderson Talks Back during the 1990s, and as the opening theme of the movie, The Great Outdoors.[6]
  • It was the inspiration and theme song for the 2002-2003 Nickelodeon series, Yakkity Yak.
  • A modified version, "Yakety Yak - Take It Back," was used in a 1990 all-star PSA for the Take It Back foundation.

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